iPhone 6 Plus vs Sony Xperia Z3 Rear Camera Comparison

September 28, 2014

iPhone 6 Plus and Sony Xperia Z3 rear-facing cameras

In this article I’ll compare the iPhone 6 Plus versus Sony Xperia Z3 main cameras. As of the time of writing, the Apple iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6 captured the two top positions in DxOMark mobile tests, followed by the Samsung Galaxy S5 in the third place and Sony Xperia Z3 in the forth place. Although I am not basing my opinion only based on these tests, it certainly tell us a something about the quality of the iPhone 6 camera fro stills and video recording.  It’s very interesting to see how one of the top mobile camera phone performers compete against Apple’s newest mobile phone, the iPhone 6 Plus. This comparison compare the 6 Plus version, not the iPhone 6 (non Plus version).

iPhone 6 Plus vs Xperia Z3 – Specs Comparison

Before we start talking about the differences between the iPhone 6 and Xperia Z3 in-depth, let’s first take a look at the main camera specs for each device.

iPhone 6 Plus
(rear camera)
Sony Xperia Z3
(rear camera)
Sensor Size1/3.0-inch (4.89 x 3.67 mm)1/2.3" (6.17mm x 4.55mm)
Sensor Resolution8 megapixels20.7 megapixels
Sensor TechnologyBSI-CMOSBSI-CMOS
Pixel Size
Sensor ModelSony ISX014 modelSony Exmor RS IMX220
AF SystemHybrid AF
(contrast-detect AF + phase-detect AF*)

*On-sensor phase-detect AF pixels (What Apple calls "Focus Pixels")

The 6 Plus is the second phone to feature phase-detection AF, the first was the Samsung Galaxy S5.
Contrast-detect AF
Lens Focal Length29mm equivalent25mm equivalent
Lens Maximum Aperturef/2.2f/2.0
Image StabilizationOptical +
Cinematic Video Stabilization
(improved from the iPhone 5S)
FlashDual LED (3m)
(Apple's "True Tone Flash")
Pulsed Single LED (3m)
Minimum Focus Range6 cm8 cm
Lens Construction- Largan Precision Optics
- 5 elements plastic
- Hybrid IR Filter
- Sapphire Crystal glass
- Sony G (Sony's Premium line of lenses)
Video Maximum ResolutionFull HD 1080p60
(1920x1080 pixels)

*progressive frames (not interlaced frames = better quality than 1080i60)

Stereo Sound

Constant Video light via LED
UltraHD 2160p30
(3840x2160 pixels)

Stereo Sound

Constant Video light via LED
Slow-motion720p 240 fps (HD)720p 120fps (HD)
Other Features- 10 fps in continuous shooting mode
- (Improved) Face detection
- HDR video
- Self-timer (3 or 10 seconds)
- Real-time Image filters
- Exposure Compensation
- Manual exposure control (exposure, ISO, shutter speed, aperture)
- Picture during video
- Panorama
- Time-lapse videos
- Continuous AF in video
- Face Detection
- Panorama
- Capture photos while shooting videos
- ISO control
- Time-shift (30 shots in 2 seconds) = burst mode
- Image effects
- Self-timer
- Smile detection
- Continuous AF in video
Weather SealingNot water resistantWaterproof and dust tight
IP65 and IP68

Up to 1.5 meter and 30 minutes in fresh water

The above iPhone 6 Plus vs Xperia Z3 specs comparison table clearly highlight the key differences between the two.

The first thing that I personally look at when I compare two cameras one versus the other is how big the sensor is. We can see that the iPhone 6 Plus sensor is smaller than the Sony Xperia Z3. The sensor size itself doesn’t actually tells the whole story. We can see that the Xperia Z3 actually has smaller pixels compared to the iPhone 6 Plus. This due to a much higher sensor resolution. The Xperia Z3 pixel density is higher and to “squeeze” so many pixels on a small sensor requires a reduction in the pixel size.  On advantage if obviously that you get to shoot in much higher resolution, 88.5% higher resolution compared to the iPhone 6 Plus to be exact (iPhone 6:3264 x 2448 ; Xperia Z3: 5248 x 3936 pixels).

Image resolution size comparison: 5258x3936 vs 3264x2558 pixels

Image resolution relative size comparison: 5258x3936 vs 3264x2558 pixels

The difference in pixel size is quite significant but does it have a negative effect on the image quality. Using gsmarena.com photo comparison tool has shown me that the both phone are very close to be equal in terms of image noise. The Sony Xperia produces sharper image with higher contrast, but I also find the in-camera sharpness by default is higher. The iPhone 6 seems to have a higher dynamic range. The Z3 certainly enjoys a resolution/detail advantage with punchier colors. Both cameras of both phone performed very close overall and we can see that inflicted from the DxOMark test results for both mobile phones. In fact, the Xperia Z3 looked bit cleaner when you look up close at 100% scaled image. You can check you the comparison yourself here. No doubt that the Xperia Z3 Exmor R sensor and image processor combination does wonders for here and the larger sensor of the Z3 certainly halpes maintain very good performance considering its very high resolution. This just makes you wonder what if Sony has decided to use a 8MP resolution?

Sensor size comparison: 1/2.3-inch vs 1/3.0-inch

Sensor size comparison: 1/2.3-inch vs 1/3.0-inch (relative size comparison, not actual size)

Another thing that you might have notices is that the Sony Xperia Z3 can shoot at up to ISO 12800 sensitivity. This is the highest ISO speed I acknowledges from any phone on the market. No doubt that this ISO is way of the scale and will produce lots of chrome noise. However, for small scaled images it’s certainly acceptable and can produce acceptable quality images.

The Apple iPhone 6 Plus utilizes a newly designed sensor. The iPhone 6 Plus model also utilizes on-sensor phase-detection pixel to improve subject tracking performance. This is the second smartphone on the market that utilizes this technology – Samsung Galaxy S5 was the first one. This technology will eventually be found in most smartphones in the near future, as it considerably improves the AF performance of the camera compared to contrast-detect AF only based cameras, like the Sony Xperia Z3.

Apple “Focus Pixels” technology is certainly a super important update, and a huge improvement in AF performance in both stills and videos compared to the iPhone 5S. Check out the video below by Blunty and be ready to be amazed. The iPhone 5S utilizes contrast-detect AF, the same as the Xperia Z3.

No gimmick, just pure super-fast AF performance! — you can see that the iPhone 5S “hunts” trying to seek the right focus point by comparing the contrast of several image to find out the right focus area.  So all I could say is WOW!

That’s why I think that future flagship model will include phase-detect AF, because once you see it in practice and use it, you just can’t go back shooting with a mobile phone camera that only uses contrast-detect AF system. Also worth mentioning that the iPhone 5S doesn’t have continuous AF during video, just for stills.

The iPhone 6 Plus also features an optical image stabilization plus an improved digital video stabilization. This is another big advantage that the iPhone 6 Plus has over the Xperia Z3 that lacks an optical image stabilizer, and uses only digital stabilization for video recording. The video stabilization work in a way that it shifts the image from side to side to make up for the camera movements. Although useful for video, an optical stabilization works more flawlessly and also work for stills as well.

The Lens & Video Recording

The iPhone 6 Plus features a slightly slower lens. the Xperia Z3 f/2.0 lens allows 1.21 times more light to pass through the lens with 0.275 stops difference between the two. That said, it’s not a big advantage, but of course fast lens is always a better option as it helps to improve the cameras low-light performance.

The Xperia Z3 also features a wider lens. A 25m focal length of the Z3 equals to 48.5° horizontal FOV and 33.4° vertical FOV. A  29mm focal length on the iPhone 6 Plus lens gives you 42.4° horizontal FOV and 29° vertical FOV, so it has narrower field of view compared to the Xperia Z3. This allows photographers to squeeze more of the surroundings into the frame, which is useful for group shots, selfies (if you use the back camera for that), landscapes, interiors, etc. I personally prefer a wide angle lens because it’s more versatile for daily shooting and because we don’t have the option of an optical zoom.

f/2.2 vs f/2.0 aperture exposure comparison

f/2.2 vs f/2.0 aperture exposure comparison (simulated)

The iPhone 6 Plus lacks 4K UltraHD video recording,  the Sony Xperia Z3 has it. I personally don’t own a 4K display, but I would probably want one in order to be able to watch my precious memory on a 4K when I could afford one. 4K videos have four times the resolution of HD and two times the resolution of Full HD. You’ll be blown away how amazing those 4K video look on a 4K display. We aren’t used seeing so much details, especially for those who are watching videos on a 720p HDTV monitor.

Check out this Sony Xperia Z3 4K sample video

Now let’s see the iPhone 6 sample video (shot with both the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6)

I think that foe the time being, most people will be more than satisfied with 1080p, and let’s not forget that 4K videos take much more storage space.

On of the biggest advantage that I see for video recording is that ability to shoot with the Sony Xperia Z3 underwater (up to 1.5 meters of fresh water for 30 minutes). The iPhone 6 Plus is not waterproof. This of course can also helps protect the phone against accidental water damage.  Both phones will give you very satisfying results, but although the iPhone 6 Plus has the OIS advantage, I found the iPhone 6 Plus to be more for my taste due to it’s optical stabilization and advanced video stabilization (smoother captures) and very fast AF performance.

Sum it Up

I think that the iPhone 6 Plus certainly put itself as one of the leaders when it comes to camera performance. The added optical stabilization, super-fast AF performance, 720p240 slow-mo recording and manual controls, all make the iPhone 6 Plus camera one of the most exciting ones this year. The Sony Xperia Z3 although lacks an OIS, does have its own advantages over the iPhone 6 Plus, including higher ISO range, faster lens, larger sensor with higher resolution, waterproof build and superb optical performance.

So both cameras of both phones have their cons and pros. I personally found the iPhone 6 Plus camera to fit better for my shooting style, but I’m sure that there are many people who find the Xperia Z3 to be better for their shooting style. You can’t go wrong choosing either. If the Xperia Z3 had an optical image stabilization and phase-detect AF, I tihnk that I would opt for the Xperia Z3, but these two features are key features for any camera in my opinion. The autofocus speed for stills and videos as well as optical stabilization, those two help promote better looking stills and videos. At the end of the day I want to come home with good quality photos and videos, and I think that the Apple iPhone 6 Plus will help me achieve that a bit better than the Z3.

That’s my opinion, you might have a completely different opinion. I want to hear what your think and whether your prefer the iPhone 6 Plus camera or the Xperia Z3 camera. Please share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below and thanks for reading.

Also check out the Apple iPhone 6 Plus vs Sony Xperia Z3 Size Comparison

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  • Vjekoslav Andric

    Oh, I think iphones OIS is underwhelming compared to Sonys digital steadyshot performance.
    Check btekt’s youtube z3 steadyshot vs iphone ois comparison video

    Steadyshot eliminates the need for ois on all accounts